Being responsive is faster than being first to respond
Bob McCann, Director of Education, ARI
March 12, 2013
Filed under Guest Blog
Over the years you’ve heard me continually say, “Response Time is Key”. I believe that is still true today, but only if your quick response is also responsive.
“Being responsive to your prospect is faster than being first to respond.”
You may think that I’m just playing with words. But read on and you will find that the power of this statement lies in its execution, not its delivery.
Over the years we’ve also mentioned that it’s equally important to answer the customer’s question(s). Our mystery shopping shows that most of the replies to online requests for information don’t answer the questions that the prospect asked. So, what does it mean to be responsive? First, I will tell what it doesn’t mean, “Responsive” doesn’t mean just fast.
Responsiveness in selling has two inseparable elements: information content and speed. Take away one element and you’re no longer responsive. Imagine that responsiveness is a molecule like H20 composed of two elements — hydrogen and oxygen. Take away the H2 (two hydrogen atoms) and you just have O (oxygen.) That’s great for breathing but it doesn’t have much use in the thirst quenching category. Similarly, if you are fast to respond to your prospects, but do not give them the data and information they requested to move forward in their buying process, then you are not being responsive. Being fast is good for gold medals, but without pertinent content, speed is not a virtue, it is a detriment to closing the sale.
Your responsiveness, or lack thereof, is your prospect’s first experience with your dealership. The initial interaction you have with a prospect or customer is judged to be a win or a loss. What do you want the prospect’s first perception of you, your product and your dealership to be?
Responsiveness is an absolute value. You either are or you aren’t. Today customers are acutely aware of responsiveness and demand it. Unfortunately they aren’t on the receiving end of it very often. Try this. When you don’t get a reply from a prospect after your initial email, reread the lead. What was the customer asking for? Did you fully answer the question(s)? Our findings indicate that most replies do not answer the question and, as a result, prospects are left frustrated early on in the process. A few may retry to get the information from you again via email or phone, but in most cases their next request for information will be to your competitor.
For a dealer, responsiveness becomes a key competitive advantage in a commodity-oriented world. The reality is that most of us aren’t very good at writing (I get lots of help!) and therefore believe that using the phone is more responsive. But, that only holds true if you actually pick up the phone and call. Our mystery shopping results show that less than 20 percent of the leads are responded to by phone even when a phone number is provided!
How can you instill a culture of absolute responsiveness at your dealership?
- Make it a priority. Everyone who engages with the customer has to be educated on the importance of providing the highest level of sales service and responsiveness that will in turn shorten the customer’s buying cycle.
- Sell with the Sharp End of the Stick. This means to only allow salespeople with the deepest product knowledge closest to the point of attack — closest to the customer. Part of a customer’s buying process is the search for information to help make a buying decision. The more quickly your front line sales people provide the answers to prospect inquiries, your responsiveness will skyrocket and you’ll close more sales.
- Use the Phone. We are much better communicating by speaking with people because you get to inject tone and benefit from the instant feedback. The problem with emails is that they lack tone. You don’t know which words a customer will add emphasis to or hang on that might change the meaning of your message. Plus, your responsiveness will improve when you can respond immediately to the customer’s feedback and counteract any objections.
- Deliver your Content to the Prospect’s Motivators. Ask your customer what they want in a boat. If they have a trade, find out what they like about it or don’t like about it. Using this information will allow you to be more responsive to what they like and want. The same works for people shopping other brands –what do they like about Brand X?
- Inspect Responses for Responsiveness. Hopefully by now you’re using a tool that makes the sales process transparent and you can read the responses your sales team is sending and coach for better responsiveness. Read the lead and the email response to be sure they complement each other. Ask yourself, what is the customer asking for and did our sales team deliver an appropriate response?
Our mystery shopping shows there is an epidemic of poor responsiveness in our industry. Some of it is laziness. Some is due to inattentiveness on the part of management. Mostly poor responsiveness is due to a lack of understanding about how essential the first perception of the prospect is to your ability to win their business. If you value responsiveness, it will quickly become apparent to your prospect that you do and that in turn will set you apart from your competitors.
“You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” Pat, my Mom
Bob McCann is director of education at ARI, a leading provider of technology-enabled business solutions for dealers, distributors and manufacturers in the marine, RV, powersports and outdoor power equipment industries. Products and services include eCommerce-enabled websites, lead generation, lead management, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, and eCatalogs (parts, garments and accessories).
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